What is all this stuff? ~

In giving my nightstand and bathroom cabinets a thorough clean-out tonight, I’ve made some interesting discoveries. For example, I’m relieved to know that I need not fear death by a thousand cuts—at least not if I’m at home—because I own more boxes of Band-Aids than a small hospital, or even a pre-school. I have them in all sizes and shapes, too. Why I own so many Band-Aids is a mystery. I just now opened one whose wrapper was so old it was virtually transparent, and guess what? The adhesive still works.

My Band-Aids will outlive me. What a legacy.

Upon reading the fine print on a never-used bottle of lemon eucalyptus mosquito repellent, I discovered that this benign-sounding concoction is only slightly less alarming than nuclear waste. Warnings abound. Do not so much as wave the box containing the bottle of repellent anywhere in the vicinity of a small child. (I’m paraphrasing.) Wash your hands before, during, and after use; wipe all of the repellent off your arms and legs after you come inside; dispose of any unused repellent at a hazardous waste collection site. (The same place I’ll have to ditch the mercury thermometer I was unaware I still owned.) Could the warnings on a can of Deep-Woods Off be any more dire? Lemon eucalyptus sounds so harmless, but can you say “volatile organic compounds”? No, plants are not always our friends. They gave us aspirin, but they also gave us hemlock. Remember that.

I’ve been picking at this Band-Aid for the last several minutes while I’ve been typing and the damn thing won’t come off. Ouch. There. Do some adhesives actually get stronger with age?

(Regarding mercury thermometers: Really, you don’t want to mess with these. When I was in college, I broke one while trying to shake it down. Hundreds of tiny mercury globules buried themselves amongst my blankets and rolled across the floor. I was aghast. After much labor I corralled them all in a dustpan or something and then disposed of them. But how? I DON’T REMEMBER. There were no hazardous waste collection days back then. Heaven help me, I may have committed water pollution by mercury. Surpassing my astonishment that so many droplets could come out of one thermometer was my fear that I’d die within the week from mercury poisoning. I was an accomplished hypochondriac in those days.)

Beyond the usual collection of expired stuff, I’ve found other oddities. There is, for example, a single condom, which seems to reflect a lack of ambition on my part. It looks lonely; perhaps it’s longing for its natural habitat, a teenage boy’s ratty wallet. It’s hard to tell how old this condom might be, since its packet bears no expiration date. It certainly is nowhere near its prime, but then neither am I. Both of us have outlived our original raisons d’être, I suspect.

I did find an expiration date on my bottle of Chigger-Rid, but I’m not falling for it. Chigger-Rid can’t possibly lose its potency. I mean, it’s basically nail polish sans the truly toxic ingredients, like toluene. No way am I getting rid of Chigger-Rid. It’s worth its weight in gold, and you can’t count on finding it in stock when you’re itching so badly you’d knock over a child on crutches to procure a bottle. You’ve got to have this stuff ready to go as soon as the misery of a chigger bite begins to dig its way into your consciousness. If you wait, you’re courting insanity. (For more on chiggers, see Calvin Trillin’s many anti-chigger screeds, but also this article with a superb double lead I wish I’d written.)

In going through my travel bag I rediscovered a little plastic digital travel clock/alarm that I’ve owned for at least 30 years and that I used on many, many vacations. The display is still working, and working accurately. Yet I know for a fact that I’ve never replaced the battery, which is a Sharp. From what I can tell online, Sharp doesn’t make AAA batteries any more, but if I ever see any, I’m stocking up. (Although my diligent little alarm will never be famous, it puts me in mind of the famous Livermore Light Bulb, the world’s longest-lasting, which has been burning for 113 years and has its own guestbook, website, and webcam.)

Speaking of light bulbs, I found in my nightstand drawer something that I cannot fathom. It’s a cardboard rectangle with a little blister pack containing two tiny things. Each of the tiny things resembles four minuscule beads stacked atop a metal prong. Apparently they’re the world’s tiniest light bulbs, for the cardboard says “2 Bonus Lamps.” It seems quite confident about this. The packaging, which bears only the logo of the American Red Cross, assures me “Belt Holster Included” and “Emergency Preparedness Checklist Enclosed.” Naturally, I found neither a belt holster, nor an emergency preparedness checklist, nor anything into which one would conceivably insert such tiny bulbs (including a belt; indeed, the promise of a belt holster would seem to presume the existence of a belt, but for what?). If anyone can shed some light—a very, very small bit of light will do—on what these bulbs might be for, please let me know. They’re haunting me, and I feel terribly unprepared.